Sierra has started every season with a new starting quarterback since implementing a spread system in 2007, so getting someone like Mark Vicente — who mostly played at receiver and defensive back at the sophomore level last year — acquainted to the position isn’t a new experience for Jeff Harbison and his coaching staff.
The difference this summer is that they’re doing it without assistant coach Jeff Abrew, Harbison’s longtime offensive play caller who stepped down after the Timberwolves’ outstanding 2014 campaign that ended with a 10-2 record and second-round appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. Ryan Teicheira has taken over for Abrew, but otherwise it’s the same old, same old, says Harbison.
“What we do in practice hasn’t changed and we’re running the same stuff,” Harbison said. “It’s a system.”
There are massive changes in personnel, as no other team in the Manteca area has been hit as hard by graduation losses than the defending Valley Oak League co-champion Timberwolves. The most notable returner is Manteca Bulletin All-Area MVP Mark Paule Jr. (2,024 yards, 45 total TDs), one of the state’s most productive rushers in 2014. He’ll have 6-foot-6, 335-pound tackle Joshua Fala back to open up holes in opposing defenses, but Fala is flanked by four new starters on the offensive line. The safety trio of Seuseu Alofaituli, Marcos Castillo and Nashon Tamiano leads the defense after starring as sophomores last year.
“We definitely have some spots to fill,” Harbison said. “Players like (All-VOL Defensive Player of the Year) Trevon McCray will be tough to replace.”
Sierra has resumed conditioning after a two-week break to start the SJS Dead Period, which ends next Monday with the official first day of fall sports practice. The Timberwolves’ summer break was highlighted by a program-wide get-together on campus, passing tournaments at Delta and Modesto junior colleges as well as its annual participation in the Stagg team camp in Stockton.
“It was a little bit of a roller coaster,” Harbison said of his team’s performances in passing scrimmages and at camp. “At Delta we started out strong. We had some struggles at the MJC tournament but learned a lot about ourselves. Overall the team had a strong camp.”
Enochs, Chavez, Edison and VOL rival Weston Ranch were also at Stagg.
Sierra also had 1-on-1 passing scrimmages with Modesto and Mountain House and was part of a five-way jamboree that included Hilmar, Downey and Modesto.
On July 9, four days before the Stagg camp, the Timberwolves had a little fun in the sun in their team-building gathering that featured a dip in the pool, Madden tournament and softball. Harbison started this new tradition last year. The intent is to create a bond between all three teams — freshman, sophomore, varsity — within the program.
“We are one program,” Harbison said. “Not three different teams.”
Sierra’s season begins at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Aug. 28 against Ripon, which aims to avenge last year’s embarrassing 54-7 home loss to the Timberwolves. They’ll head to Central Valley (Ceres) the following week before welcoming Lodi, which replaces defending Tri-City Athletic League champion Chavez on the Sierra schedule.